Louise Leetch's Reviews > Android Karenina

Android Karenina by Ben H. Winters
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May 24, 12

Read on May 17, 2010

My taste in books runs to the ilk of Cold Mountain. I haven’t read one single vampire book. I never read the Harry Potter Books and I never could get into fantasy books—including the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings! I guess I’m just a snob! When I began reading Ben H. Winters’ mash-up of Android Karenina, my hopes were not high for a quick, light or funny read. Oddly enough, it was all three. Mash-ups are the latest thing in the literary world, mixing classics with new world monsters and demons. It’s not really all that new; the music world has been doing it for ages. Mad Magazine used to rewrite the comics as written by, If Al Capp wrote Brenda Starr.

Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is the original high maintenance drama queen. She falls in love with a dashing soldier, deserts her husband and child for him and complains when he doesn’t dote on her every minute of the day. We all know that Russian novels tend to have a gazillion characters, so what does Winters do? He adds more!

The author introduces us to the Robots made of Groznium. There are Class I robots acting as toys, candles and self-extinguishing ashtrays. Class II robots perform the functions of domestics, train drivers and miners. Upon reaching their majority, the upper classes receive a Class III, a beloved-companion robot. That robot is part alter ego, part Jiminy Cricket, part personal valet/maid. They provide a memory bank and communication, as well as protect, groom, mimic, nudge and commiserate with their human counterparts. Eventually, we meet the humanoid Class IV robot, the ubiquitous “toy soldiers”.

Count Vronsky’s Class III is shaped like a wolf; Anna’s is sveltely shaped but still robotic. Anna’s husband, Alexei, has a robot that takes form as a partial face, a la Phantom of the Opera. It is quite clear from the beginning that the face will be not only urging but also dictating Karenin’s actions. Alexei is extremely important in the Higher Branches of the Ministry of Robotics. He controls all the robots and protects the populace from the UnConSkia terrorists, former state scientists who threaten Russian’s utopian way of life.

The true marvel of this mash-up is the way the author flips the events thoroughly and seamlessly from Czarist Russia to something more akin to 1984. The religious enthusiasts are now Xenotheologists who believe “They will come for us in three ways” and those ways are in the form of hellhounds to delight any fan of Star Wars sand creatures. Vronsky’s English stallion, Frou Frou, becomes an exterior, a sort of suit of armor, for the cull--a steeplechase in which the contestants must eliminate each other. Anna will still destroy herself, not under a train, but beneath the Grav, which runs on an electrical force across a magnetic field. Ben H.Winters, playwright, librettist and author of the immensely popular Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters connects all of Tolstoy’s dots in the cleverly bizarre world he has created and he transforms a Russian novel into a reasonably demented work of science fiction.

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message 1: by Powerock (new)

Powerock My taste runs along the same lines, Lou, so I am not sure I am sold on this book -- in spite of your usual well-written review. Also, since I am a few years old and mentally slower than you, it might be just too complex. Please feel free to disagree. :) ro


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